And while you no doubt learned a lot about differentiation in your preparation program, it can sometimes be hard to figure out ways to put it effectively into practice. I'm no expert, but here are some ideas to help you think about differentiation to meet student needs.
One of the researchers writing a lot about differentiation, Carol Ann Tomlinson (1999), says: we can recognize differentiated instruction by a variety of classroom characteristics:
- Teachers begin where the students are.
- Teachers engage students in instruction through different learning modalities.
- A student competes more against himself or herself than others.
- Teachers provide specific ways for each individual to learn.
- Teachers use classroom time flexibly.
- Teachers are diagnosticians, prescribing the best possible instruction for each student. (p. 2)
Some examples of differentiation by content might look like:
- Having materials at different reading levels on the same topic.
- Changing the types of items certain students complete.
- Students complete different graphic organizers for the same text/topic.
- Front-loading vocabulary and/or academic langauage, or providing pre-reading strategies for some students.
- Presenting materials through both auditory and visual means.
- Asking students different levels of questions.
- Teaching content through center activities.
- Providing students choice in task completed.
- Varying the length of time students have to complete a task.
- Offering hands-on activities to support some students.
- Allowing students to work independently or in small groups.
- Giving students choice to complete a written report or create a webpage.
- Having students determine the best way to share their learning.
- Providing students with tiered assignments.
Teaching Tolerance has some videos and prompts to help teachers think about differentiation. The Teaching Channel also has posted videos to model ways to differentiate. The Association for Middle Level Education has a great article about incorporating tech tools for differentiation.
What are some ways you plan for differentiation in your classroom?